The Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, RBA, has achieved Most Favoured Venue status with Toronto chamber music audiences. An anonymous gift makes the RBA’s public concerts free of charge. They are the product of programme director Nina Draganic whose discriminating and eclectic tastes consistently account for line ups and full houses. A visit to Ms. Draganic’s RBA website will provide ample insight into the popularity of her concert series.
Rick Sacks was one of her presciently gratifying choices. On 24 April, he performed a concert of music for the MalletKat – two octaves of rectangular rubber pads laid out like the black and white keys of a piano keyboard and activated with, what else, mallets. A computer helps program the pads with an almost infinite number of sounds and Rick employed many of them during the concert. An hour’s worth of MalletKat music proved plenty diverse enough to hold the audience’s attention.
Rick played six works, four of his own creation. On a couple of occasions, his natural gift for whimsy struck home. In his 2009 Dragnet, a Sergeant Friday -“Just the facts Mam” tribute, Rick donned a fedora and pulled up his shirt collar to take his bow.
The program opened with a work by David Lidov, evocatively titled I Want You To Know That I Love You (An Aria). This was written in 2011 and revised in 2012. I didn’t feel loved at all and wondered if i was missing something. Perhaps. There were no programme notes.
A commission by Rick was GOLEM (2014) by Musique Concrète composer Giels Gobeil. Although to me overly long, GOLEM is the work of a professional and the first work by Gobeil involving a performer. The industrial or factory sounds were, for the most part mesmerizing. I believed Rick when he said prior to playing the work, that it was extremely difficult and he was still working on it. At concerts end, GOLEM elicited questions from the audience about its notation.
Lullaby (2010) by Sacks, is a simple construction of sampled sounds of a naturally amplified German version of an Mbira. Lullaby is a beautiful work and without the traditional buzzing of shells or bottle caps attached to Mbiras played in Africa, it was profitably adapted to the MalletKat. Tender and affecting, Lullaby created a dramatic presence.
The last work was the premier of Rick’s Andronicus, which, on a couple of occasions and much to the delight of the capacity audience, he accidently referred to as Androgynous. Dedicated to the Bradshaw Amphitheatre and the Canadian Opera Company, Andronicus is a skillfully arranged pastiche of operatic excerpts triggered by strikes on the MalletKat. Andronicus ended in parody with a much too long high soprano note allowing Rick, mouth opened wide, sanpaku eyes ablaze and a supplicant’s arms outstretched, to accept his audience’s long and grateful applause.
Rick Sacks is the artistic director of Array Music, a composer, a percussionist and conductor. In this author’s opinion, Rick’s term as Array’s Artistic Director has wrought significant changes bringing Array Music into an elite group of Canadian contemporary music educators and presenters. I look forward to Array’s Young Composers Programme in the last half of this month. (May 2014.)